Tomorrow is recycling day. Our recycling bucket contains an assortment of plastic, metal and paper, ready to embark on a journey of reincarnation. It isn’t so notable anymore, curbside recycling programs have been implemented throughout Houston. But I have not participated in quite a long while. At my former house in the Heights, recycling pickup was on alternating weeks and I did not have the mental acuity to maintain that schedule in my head, so I drove two miles down the street on the weekends carrying my recyclable waste to the neighborhood recycling center. Then after I moved to Cristy’s house, I was never clear on the recycling guidelines or schedule. And since Cristy did not participate, I gave it up for a while. Yes, my aspiring greenness faded to a dullish muddy brown.
But we’re back on track as of tomorrow. Thursday is a bonus day for Waterford Park: regular household trash pickup day, heavy trash pickup day and recycling day. A veritable bonanza of solid waste services!
It occurred to me, on the drive in this morning (as I was listening to the noise in my head rather than music due to my chronic technophobia) that since we are busy getting our house organized and arranged, perhaps I could try to do the same with myself. There are certain step-oriented programs that focus on improving the quality of your life by eliminating negative behaviors that tend to contribute to chaos. Some people that participate in step-oriented programs also use tools as metaphors for action. Eliminating negative behavior is really an intangible thing, but by linking a tangible action to the negative behavior and enacting a “riddance ceremony” to this action, it helps to define some mental structure around the purging experience.
So I was wondering if I could put some of my personal defects out for pickup tomorrow along with the household trash. I won’t be needing them any longer. They don’t serve me well now and just like holding on to old VHS video tapes, it’s doubtful that I’ll be needing them in the future.
Perhaps I could say goodbye to complaining and refer back to the guidelines my mommy suggested when I was a little girl: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Complaining for the sake of complaining is counterproductive and I don’t think I much need to do it anymore.
I might also be well advised to toss out judgment in tomorrow’s trash. One of my character defects, unfortunately, is to lay claim to a judgment before I have enough information. So instead, I think I might be a better person to pause and take the trouble to listen or read more, even if I don’t happen to ultimately agree with the point of view.
And I think, overall, I would increase my level of personal happiness if I discarded my tendency to be reclusive. The level of communication among my immediate family is not very frequent and, truth be told, it troubles me. So instead of observing this burden from afar, I could adjust my happiness by reaching out more. Taking a couple of hours out of my week to call, email, send letters and notes. I cannot change anyone else’s behavior and do not have any expectations that a change in my behavior will trigger a similar response in anyone else. But I am sure it would make me feel happier. Plus, it's just the right thing to do.
My plan is to simply print a copy of this essay, circle the items that I want to discard, and add it to the trash when I carry it out this evening. The renewal, the reincarnation that I seek, from the act of recycling, is the change that I will take back with me. Trading complaining for gratitude, judgment for curiosity and reclusiveness for reaching out.
I recited the serenity prayer to myself before I came in to work today. Usually, when I say this prayer, I tend to focus on the first part: accepting the things I cannot change. But today, my heart hovered around asking God for the courage to change the things I can. He has, in fact, answered my prayer. Through the simple act of recycling.
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